Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association


  The Clay Pigeon Shooting Association is the recognised official governing body for the sport in England. It represents the interests of more than 20,000 officially registered clay pigeon shooters in the UK and of some 600 affiliated clubs and shooting grounds.

  It has been in existence since 1928 and its main aims and objectives are to administer, regulate, develop and promote the Olympic and Commonwealth sport of clay pigeon shooting.

  This submission will limit itself to issues relating to existing laws and controls as they apply only to shotguns (or part 2 firearms).


  Before addressing the principal questions that the committee seeks answers to, the CPSA wishes to draw attention to the following statistical evidence and other confirmed facts in order to provide a balanced understanding of the current situation and to bring this enquiry into context:

    —  Shooting remains one of the few truly amateur sports retaining the best of amateur virtues. It is totally free from discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, age or physical disability and it places great emphasis on safety and the responsible use and understanding of firearms. It is practised by about 1,000,000 of the most respectable and law-abiding members of the community and its safety record is second to none.

    —  Public safety is not threatened by the legitimate and licensed holders of firearms. The 1996 Home Office statistics show that of all recorded violent crimes in England and Wales only 1 per cent of these involved the use of firearms. That 1 per cent, however, lumps together real firearms with replicas, imitations, de-activated weapons and air guns, making the numbers of guns actually capable of being fired, and used in crime, less than half of 1 per cent of all recorded violent crime. Of these, a very substantial number are air guns not subject to certification, therefore, making the numbers of legally licensed weapons within that 0.5 per cent practically devoid of any statistical value.

    —  The number of illegally held firearms in this country is virtually impossible to ascertain and estimates vary widely. It is certain, though, that there are, at least, as many illegally held firearms as certificated ones and the real size of the illegal pool is likely to be several times larger than that of the legitimate one. Most of the types of gun currently used in crime are not even capable of being certified as automatic and semi-automatic rifles and pistols were banned in 1988 and 1997 respectively and sawn-off shotguns have been illegal since at least 1937.

    —  The number of firearms licences and shotgun certificates have fallen dramatically over recent years to the extent that since 1968 the losses amount to over 35 per cent. Currently, there are only 133,000 firearm certificates and 623,000 shotgun certificates on issue in the United Kingdom, the lowest figures ever. Over the last 30 years the licensing system has been progressively modified and strengthened extensively to the point where we now have some of the most stringent firearm controls in the world. Over the same period of time armed crime has risen by more than ten-fold and never at a bigger rate than since the banning of handguns in 1997. There is no reliable evidence anywhere that indicates a correlation between the incidence of armed crime and the numbers of legally held firearms nor is there any official research in place aimed at establishing such correlation.

    —  Numbers of accidents and suicides bear witness to the excellent safety record of shooting sports. On any given year there are, typically, some 8,000 fatal accidents in the home and in our roads. By comparison, accidents in sport result in only 150 deaths per annum and the last recorded fatal accident in shooting dates back to 1988. In non-fatal accidents, shooting accounts for only one injury out of 730 annually recorded incidents that occur in outdoor sports.

    —  The number of suicides in this country has varied little since 1900. The proportion involving firearms has dropped by more than 46 per cent from one in 13 to one in 24. Each year for every 1,000,000 population about 80 people commit suicide. Of these, less than four use a firearm of any description.

    —  The Hungerford and Dunblane tragedies were, not surprisingly, the main two catalysts for the latest changes in legislation. In the case of Hungerford, there was no public enquiry and the real facts behind the massacre were never made public. In the case of Dunblane the political agenda of an outgoing Conservative government overruled the many sensible and well thought-out recommendations of Lord Cullen and a ban on hand-guns was announced by the Prime Minister before the publication of the £1 million Cullen Report. The real facts about Thomas Hamilton and the blatant and gross failings of Central Scotland police in relation to his certificate renewal were never made public knowledge. Even the immediate resignation over this issue of the Chief Officer responsible for these failings was glossed over by a government that elected to make policy based on prejudice rather than fact.

    —  Target shooting sports have a long and honourable history. Shooting for sport is a mass participation activity on a par with horse riding, cricket and skiing and well above many popular sports such as rugby, hockey, track & field and others. Clay Pigeon Shooting, the most popular of all target shooting sports, is enjoyed by nine to 90 year olds of either sex as well as a substantial number of registered disabled and wheelchair users. It is a highly addictive hobby with participants coming from all walks of life and a great variety of social backgrounds. More and more women and children try or participate in the sport every year, making it a wholesome and very suitable activity for all the family to enjoy.

    —  International honours in clay pigeon shooting competitions come thick and fast every year. In fact the English and Great Britain shooting teams appointed yearly by the CPSA are world leaders in this sport and their regular successes far outstrip those in any other field of sporting endeavour. Out of only five "quota places" gained by British shooters for the Olympic Games of Sydney 2000, four have been obtained by CPSA members in all three clay shooting disciplines that are part of the Olympic Games. At the end of the 1999 season, our international competitors boast no less than seven individual World titles as well as a host of individual European titles and numerous World and European team medals across the entire range of international clay pigeon shooting disciplines. Through the efforts of our highly motivated and dedicated amateur sportsmen Great Britain is truly a well-respected world leader in the arena of international shooting sports.


  The CPSA wishes to continue to co-operate closely in all firearm related matters with the Home Office and the Police as well as with the Home Affairs Select Committee.

  We would, however, wish to make the following representations on the three questions asked about shotguns by the Select Committee:

    —  Extent of the problems caused by misuse of shotguns—All available evidence proves conclusively that there is no misuse whatsoever of licensed shotguns in either urban or rural areas. Legitimate shotgun users pose no threat whatsoever to public safety and there is nothing to suggest that shotguns are commonly used in crime (whether licensed or not) or that lawfully stored shotguns constitute a ready source of weaponry for the criminal element of our society. Out of the 1.3 million shotguns legally licensed last year, not a single case of unlawful misuse has been recorded.

    —  Inadequacies in the existing controls—There is no evidence whatsoever that existing controls are in any way inadequate. In fact these controls are far more stringent than in most other countries in the world, which result in extremely low levels of refusals and revocations. The latest Home Office statistics show that last year there were 623,100 shotgun certificates on issue in England & Wales plus another 63,000 in Scotland. Of these, 21,000 were new certificates and 175,000 were renewed. Less than two per cent of new applications were refused and only 0.1 per cent of renewals were not granted. Overall, only 0.2 per cent of all certificates were revoked. These official figures clearly demonstrate that the existing licensing controls are extremely effective and that any extra attention should be focused on achieving a more consistent and effective administration of the existing regulations as they stand.

    —  What improvements to the system might be usefully introduced—From the above it follows that there is no merit whatsoever in tinkering with a system that is demonstrably effective in the licensing and lawful keeping of sporting shotguns. There is, however, substantial room for improvement in the present administration of the system and the widely varying standards applied by different firearm managers up and down the land. A much better set of guidelines is needed and consistent implementation of the actual Law must be achieved. The creation of a central civilian licensing authority, as proposed by the Home Office several years ago, would be a very positive and welcome development. This would relieve some of the pressure from the Police and would undoubtedly solve many of the current problems created by the fragmented way in which the regulations are being implemented. We would also promote the view that the various Firearms Acts and Amendments currently in force should be unified and simplified by a single act of Parliament and we believe that such a move would be met with almost universal approval.

  To conclude, the CPSA is of the firm opinion that well regulated target shooting sports, and in particular clay pigeon shooting, have a legitimate and important role to play in the promotion of the understanding and the responsible use of firearms by law-abiding sportsmen and women and the general community. We wish to maintain our excellent track record in our relations with the Police and other authorities and we believe that we can be materially instrumental in the implementation of the Law and in achieving a responsible response to changes in legislation. The CPSA would, therefore, welcome the opportunity to work with the Committee in the achievement of all these objectives.

October 1999

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